Epidemiology and Infection

Human coronavirus OC43 causes influenza-like illness in residents and staff of aged-care facilities in Melbourne, Australia

C. J. BIRCH a1, H. J. CLOTHIER a2a3c1, A. SECCULL a2, T. TRAN a1, M. C. CATTON a1, S. B. LAMBERT a3a4 and J. D. DRUCE a1
a1 Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory, North Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
a2 Communicable Diseases Section, Rural and Regional Health and Aged Care Services Division, Department of Human Services, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
a3 Master of Applied Epidemiology Program, National Centre of Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
a4 Vaccine and Immunisation Research Group, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and the School of Population Health, University of Melbourne, Australia

Article author query
birch cj   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
clothier hj   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
seccull a   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
tran t   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
catton mc   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
lambert sb   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
druce jd   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Three outbreaks of respiratory illness associated with human coronavirus HCoV-OC43 infection occurred in geographically unrelated aged-care facilities in Melbourne, Australia during August and September 2002. On clinical and epidemiological grounds the outbreaks were first thought to be caused by influenza virus. HCoV-OC43 was detected by RT–PCR in 16 out of 27 (59%) specimens and was the only virus detected at the time of sampling. Common clinical manifestations were cough (74%), rhinorrhoea (59%) and sore throat (53%). Attack rates and symptoms were similar in residents and staff across the facilities. HCoV-OC43 was also detected in surveillance and diagnostic respiratory samples in the same months. These outbreaks establish this virus as a cause of morbidity in aged-care facilities and add to increasing evidence of the significance of coronavirus infections.

(Accepted October 8 2004)

c1 Ms. H. Clothier, Epidemiology Unit, Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory, 10 Wreckyn Street, North Melbourne, Victoria 3051, Australia. (Email: hazel.clothier@mh.org.au)